Skip to content

NEWS: Harper government to develop ‘foreign trade zone’ policy

The Tyee reports, “The British Columbia government is considering creating two foreign trade zones, one in the Vancouver region (the Port of Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport) and one in the north (the Port of Prince Rupert and the Prince George Airport). The scenarios for zones where companies could bring goods into Canada without immediately paying tariffs on them are outlined in the report Feasibility of a British Columbia Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) Program that Intervistas Consulting Inc. prepared for two B.C. ministries (the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure). …The zones would allow companies to bring goods or materials in from other countries to be assembled, customized or repaired in the province, said the report. The companies wouldn’t have to pay any tariffs until the final products were put on the Canadian market. And if they were shipped out of Canada from the FTZ, they wouldn’t be subject to Canadian tariffs at all. …Other industries might use the zones to warehouse goods, avoiding import taxes until they are ready to sell the goods, it said.”

“New Democratic Party MLA for Delta North, Guy Gentner (and) Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, (have raised the) alarm about what a foreign trade zone might mean for Delta. …Having seen the InterVistas report, Gentner said, ‘It seems very sanitized.’ The report fails to address labour and environmental issues, he said. …He’ll have lots of questions for the ministers responsible when the legislature resumes sitting after Feb. 14.”

“The next step, the report said, is for the federal government to develop a new foreign trade zone policy that would keep many existing policies that are working, but also ‘expand the range of activities that can be done within the FTZ’ to match the United States. …In June the federal government said it would be reviewing it’s policies on foreign trade zones to see if they were competitive with other countries and ‘able to support Canada’s gateway development initiatives.’ The NDP’s Gentner said he’ll be watching to see how fast the file moves now that the Conservatives have a majority in Ottawa and BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark is trying to demonstrate a strong relationship with Stephen Harper’s government.”

In late-June, the Council of Canadians organized public forums in Vancouver and Ladner to raise concerns about the proposed foreign trade zones. In mid-December, the Delta-Richmond chapter set up an information picket at the Ladner bus loop and the Highway 17 pedestrian overpass.

Delta-Richmond chapter president Cathy Wilander has stated, “Foreign trade zones are also referred to as free trade zones or economic trade zones in other places. Governments section off land to create special investment climates for business and industry. What this usually means is the opportunity to do business without environmental and social policies/labour regulations to restrict corporations and business. We need to be aware of what the environmental and social cost to our community will be if a zone is established at Deltaport. How much farmland will be lost, who will protect workers’ rights, what will what will be the cost to the surrounding marine environment, how much more pollution will be created and what will be the impact on migratory birds and other wildlife? We will look at what we can do to stop this. We need to protect our community. There is nothing free about a free trade zone.”

For Council of Canadians blogs noting concerns about the proposed foreign trade zones, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22foreign+trade+zone%22.